Projects Challenge Bright Kids
Award-winning poet Paul Zarzyski discusses his creative process with Upper School English students at Episcopal Academy.
For exceptionally bright students thirsty for knowledge, teachers are thinking outside the box. Through innovative approaches, schools have found unique ways to challenge the very bright.
Real World Issues
Donna Donato, the gifted and talented program coordinator at Eastern High School in Voorhees, NJ, says bright students “are usually very sensitive and passionate about global issues. They are able to empathize with underprivileged children and issues related to undeveloped nations.” Combining classroom study with fieldwork gives students a working knowledge of issues such as:
• Homelessness. In the classroom, students learn about the cycle of homelessness, then gain practical knowledge at shelters, soup kitchens and tent cities.
• Helping Kids in Need. Students at Eastern High partner with the Jacaranda School for AIDS orphans in Malawi, Africa. Projects range from videos of Eastern students performing science experiments to the creation and funding of a sports and recreation program for the Jacaranda School.
• International Understanding. In the Model UN program, students represent a country and argue its point of view on issues ranging from women’s rights to microfinances.
Many bright students can easily navigate a computer, but understanding system design and programming elevates their understanding. Cutting-edge technology learning includes:
• Robotics. Through local and national competitions, students learn the design, construction, operation and application of robots, gaining experience in engineering and computer programming.
• Cell phone apps. At Episcopal Academy in Newtown Square, PA, students in music and the visual arts delve into new areas of digital design and music production to
create their own apps.
• Inventions. Contests and grant competitions encourage students to design new inventions. For example, funded by an $8,670 grant from Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam,
students at Eastern High created the Maji Drum, a UV water filtration and storage device that provides clean, drinkable water for third world countries.
Creative Writing and Arts
“Everyone talks about creativity being one of the core 21st century skills, and to extend learning into areas of creative writing has proven to be terrific for students,” says Geoffrey Wagg, head of Episcopal Academy’s Upper School.
Some students are encouraged to publish their work in magazines such as Teen Inc. Others write poems or short stories to accompany photo essays. Some arts students tackle projects that combine subject areas, such as art history studies of classic Greek or Latin cultures.
Online, students are encouraged to create websites and blogs. They design their sites and write updates.
One Eastern High student created a science, technology and entertainment blog and included a “word cloud.”
People could click on a word and be hyperlinked to posts within the blog corresponding to it.
Terri Akman is a contributing writer to MetroKids and South Jersey mom of three.